Sinus Health and Allergies: Pet Dander

You may be aware that over 70% of U.S. households contain at least one dog or cat, but what you may not know is that 10% of the American population has some type of animal allergy.

Our pets are an important part of our lives. They provide us companionship and just having them around can reduce our stress. Everybody should have the opportunity to discover the joys of a pet. Those who develop sinus infections because of allergies to pet dander should take care to know the risks involved with different pets to be sure that the pet they select is right for them.

Dr. Bennett urges patients to use this article as a way to take note of the causes of pet allergies, the ways in which they trigger a sinus infection and preventative steps to minimize contact with allergens without reducing the amount of quality time you spend with your beloved pet.

Pet allergies are common for all ages

Pet allergies are common for all ages

What is pet dander?

Pet dander is one of the more significant types of environmental allergens. Exposure to these allergens causes inflammation of the sinuses, resulting in sinus pain, pressure and headaches, but this doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye to Man’s Best Friend.

Take simple steps to bathe your pet weekly to reduce dander and shedding that carry the irritants present in the animal’s fur. Bathing your pet also washes away any grass and pollen buried in the animal’s fur that can irritate your sinus.

If you have a cat, take care not to expose yourself to the litter box except when absolutely necessary.

How is pet dander connected to sinusitis?

Pet dander is connected to sinusitis because of the allergens found in many places on your pet, primarily the fur, saliva and urine. Cats and dogs are the two most common pets that carry these allergens. Their dander and skin flakes can cause an allergic reaction, which in turn leads to sneezing, wheezing, and running eyes and nose.

Birds can also carry the allergens that cause sinusitis. Their feathers and droppings are a source of bacteria, dust, fungi and mold. Note that these same allergens are present in hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, mice and other caged animals.

You may have heard several misconceptions about pet dander. First, it is important to understand that the fur itself, while still an allergen, is not the most significant irritant, but rather it is the dead skin cells, pollen, dust and mold buried deep inside the fur. Another misconception relates to the length of your pet’s fur. While the fur itself can be an allergen, as noted above, trimming your pet’s hair is not a viable solution, as research shows no correlation between the fur length and allergen production. Lastly, many people may tell you that simply seeking out a “non-allergenic” breed of cat or dog eliminates the allergens linked to sinus problems. This is untrue. There is no such thing as this type of breed although some breeds are less allergenic.

Dr. Bennett also reminds pet owners and non-pet owners alike to be aware of their presence. If you find yourself suffering from the symptoms you’d normally experience if an animal were in the room, despite the lack of animals present, there may still be pet dander in the area that is causing your sinuses to feel inflamed. Office spaces, schools, restaurants and other common public areas may contain pet dander brought by those who have carried pet dander on their clothing. The allergens contained in dander has a very a sticky texture that are difficult to remove. Even if you have taken remedial steps to rid your home of dander left by an animal, studies show that it could take up to six months for it to be completely eliminated

Cats and Pet Dander

More than six million people in the United States report an allergy to cats, causing inflammation of the sinus cavity, leading to difficulty breathing and itchy eyes and throat.

Cat Allergies

Cat Allergies

The allergen present is cats stems from a protein found in a cat’s saliva and fur. This protein can take the form of tiny particles in the air, that you can inhale through your nose and mouth. Like other common forms of allergens, cat dander also has a sticky texture and can be carried on one’s shirt, pants or jacket, meaning that you may be exposed to cat dander whether or not a cat is present. 

Dogs and Pet Dander

Less people are affected by sinus infection-causing allergens from dog dander than from those caused by cats.  However, dog dander is similar to that of cats in that the allergen is carried by a dog’s saliva, and its contact with your nose or lungs can cause an allergy attack.

Dog Allergies

Dog Allergies

It is also more likely that dog dander is present in the air because of a dog’s habit of scratching itself. Ironically, dogs that scratch themselves more often than normal may be a result of your dog’s allergy to food or a substance in your home. Commonly, this substance is mold, however there are a wide variety of possibilities. If you suspect your dog has an allergy, taking it to the veterinarian for an allergy test will not only increase the health of your dog, but will also minimize your exposure to dander allergens.

Factsheet: Important Tips to Control Pet Dander 

While removing your pet is the best solution for those who suffer from severe sinus infections rooted in pet dander, Dr. Bennett provides other options to control pet dander in your home so that you may continue providing a loving home for your animal.

  • Be sure to keep your pet away from the bedroom, and if your pet doesn’t mind the outdoors, try to keep him or her in your yard during the spring, summer and fall months.   Restricting your pet to certain rooms help control the places where the dander is present.
  • Remind your guests or family members with severe dander allergies to avoid contact with your animal’s fur or saliva by not holding, petting, or allowing the animal to lick them.
  • If you have upholstered furniture, do not allow your pets to climb or sleep on it, to minimize the transfer of dander from the fur
  • Cat owners should take care in placing litter boxes in areas that are far from the air supply in your home
  • Pet owners with severe dander allergies should consider wearing a protective mouth mask or rubber gloves while grooming or bathing pets
  • Take care to always remove clothing worn while grooming or bathing your pet. You can even purchase a special allergen wash when laundering your clothes to make sure all of the dander is removed. You can find the wash in your local pet store.
  • Remember to always thoroughly wash and clean your face and hands after playing with your pet.
  • Purchase an anti-allergen dust spray when cleaning, which works to minimize the amount of allergens in your home
  • Purchase an anti-allergen pet shampoo when bathing your pet
  • Forced-air heating and air-conditioning spreads airborne pet dander that comes from your pet’s fur or saliva. Therefore, installation of a central air cleaner can reduce the amount of dander in the air
  • Invest in a HEPA (High-Effiiciency Air Particulate) filter and keep it running between 24 hours per day
  • When cleaning, use a special HEPA vacuum cleaner or HEPA vacuum bags that work harder than regular vacuum cleaners to suck up and contain dusts, dander and allergens.
  • Those with allergens to bird feathers should place their goose feather-down comforters, and pillows in hypo-allergenic zippered encasements. Bird feathers also break down into dust and the dustmites can be another significant allergen.
  • Consider installing hardwood floors in common areas and stairs to avoid dander build-up in carpeting

Conclusion

The affection and loyalty shown by pet is one of the great pleasures of owning an animal. If you have been diagnosed with frequent sinus infections from pet dander, you can still enjoy the company of your pet and limit potential side-effects. Take care to follow the tips listed above to control your exposure to pet dander and consult with your doctor or veterinarian to understand more about the severity of your allergy.

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